Thursday, September 2, 2010

Book Review: Dharma Family Treasures by Sandy Eastoak

This book of essays from a variety of Buddhist thinkers and practitioners is a contemplative journey. While I don't identify as a Buddhist myself, I have many friends and peers who do and I myself have a sitting practice much like Vipassana meditation. This book is written for practicing Buddhists looking for insights as to how to integrate family into spiritual practice and for Buddhists as a community to recognize parenthood as a Path in and of itself, but anyone seeking wisdom from all religions can benefit from reading this book.

It is organized into like-minded essay sections such as "Parents Practicing" (one of my favorites, actually), "The Children's Sangha", and "Honoring the Source". Essays of everyday practitioners are alongside famous Buddhists like Diane di Prima and Thich Nhat Hanh. (I actually got more out of the everyday parents, myself!) The "Parents Practicing" section talks a lot about one of my favorite topics, which is parenting as a spiritual practice. While I often read and benefit from major Buddhist thinkers like Thich Nhat Hanh, there is nothing quite like listening to another parent struggling with the same issues as you are to make for compelling reading. Reading hands-on accounts of how children were integrated (and what worked and what didn't) into mostly adult workshops, communities and retreats was interesting and enlightening (pun intended!)

One essay that pagan readers will get a lot out of is by the editor, Sandy Eastoak. In "The Wheel of the Year" she writes, "In our eclectic household, the most accessible means of sharing spiritual celebration is marking the cycle of the seasons. Although we come from Buddhist, Muslim, and Roman Catholic traditions, our holidays are borrowed from the ancient European pagans....I am not sure how to give my children Buddhism. However, in the cycle of the year, we can become aware of the mighty movements of nature and all its echoes in the largest and smallest cycles of our lives. If  Buddha is not here, where?"

I found it interesting that the Buddhist author celebrates pagan sabbats because she finds it easier to share with her children than the pujas. Besides knowing how to throw a good party, pagans revel in engaging all the senses in their rites. A good pagan sabbat includes body , mind, and spirit and is therefore easily translatable to kids.

This book is a Buddhist philosophy book with a parenting theme in the way that Parenting With Spirit was a parenting philosophy book with a spiritual theme. It has a much narrower target audience than that previous book I reviewed, but is still a worthwhile read.

Formal Rating:
Title: Dharma Family Treasures: Sharing Buddhism with Children
Author: Sandy Eastoak
Publisher: North Atlantic Books
Price: $16.95 USD 
ISBN: 1-55643-244-5

Topics Covered: Buddhism, Intentional Community, Parenting, Religion, Spirituality

Target Audience: Buddhists seeking to integrate children into their practice.
Witch Mom Rating: Two Hats
While pagans are not the intended audience, anyone seeking to mindfully parent will get something out of this book.

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